My dearest Salesian Family, and friends of Don Bosco and his charism, and readers of the Bulletin, my greeting this month comes from my heart and from the 'Red Island’ of Madagascar.
We are in Easter time, a time that invites us once again to deepen our faith and our hope as the foundation of our lives.
But I am writing with the drama of recent times in my heart and before my eyes. We began Holy Week with images of death in Europe. Remember the attacks at the airport and in the subway of Brussels, the Christians in the playground in Lahore, and the great sorrow of our family with our hearts overwhelmed with worry and fear for the fate of our confrere Fr Thomas. Heroically he chose to share the sacrifice of the four Sisters of Charity in Aden and so far we have absolutely no news of him.
I have invited you repeatedly to pray for all those who are innocent victims of violence, of all kinds of violence and hunger, of forced migration and of natural disasters. We continue to pray for the many martyrs who are killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ, even at the present time. In the communion of the universal Church let us feel of one heart and one soul with them.
The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality in which God reveals his love like that of a father and a mother who are moved from the depths of their bowels for their child. It is really true to say that it is a "visceral" love. It comes from within as a deep natural feeling of tenderness and compassion, forbearance and forgiveness (Pope Francis).
At the same time I remember the words of Pope Francis who invites us to remember always that the Mercy of God is his identity card. This simple colloquial phrase attributed to the Pope seems to me very beautiful and touching.
We must recognize that our hearts are often cynical and insensitive and become hardened more and more over time.
We believe we are in search of universal peace, but right now violence is raging in all corners of our planet. We are closing borders and building walls to stop people who are living an authentic Exodus. Easily we forget that our people, our ancestors, were migrants, perhaps even our own forefathers. Our hearts are wonderful and capable of great love, but sometimes petty and fragile, so that we barricade ourselves and close our hearts.
Faced with this reality, we can only raise our hands to God the Father, look to the Risen Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of Mercy, the same mercy that is part of the essence of God.
As Pope Francis writes: "With our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of divine love in its fullness. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16), John affirms for the first and only time in all of Holy Scripture. This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously. The relationships he forms with the people who approach him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs he works, especially in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. "
We implore the grace to grow in mercy that no doubt makes us more human. Growing in Mercy generates peace in the heart and is the prerequisite and basis for happiness. We ask God that, in the words of the prophet Ezekiel, our heart may be not a heart of stone but a heart of flesh. I turn again to the words of Pope Francis who invites us to be moved by the reality of God's identity card: mercy, that mercy which is given to each of us and on condition that we make it alive with our brothers and sisters.
Mercy, compassion, tenderness, kindness, tolerance, forgiveness ... these are just different aspects of the same rich reality. Which one of them do we need most at the moment? It's up to each of us to listen to the promptings of our heart and the concrete situations of our everyday life.
My wish for you is that you live intensely the Easter season in this month of May dedicated to Mary our Mother and Help. May the sweetness of her gaze accompany us, that we may all rediscover the joy of God's tenderness! And may we feel every day closer in her Motherly Love.